Designing the European Food Menu for Change

Generation Z has been defined as a digital, community-oriented, and politically-active generation, who is determined to facilitate change, speak their mind and make a difference. In light of COP26, this time period has been defined as transformational, as we are working towards meeting our 1.5 degrees goal quickly. However, it seems like the discussion of food systems was left largely unattended at this conference, following the Food Systems Summit earlier in the year.

Young people are those most willing to embrace new technologies, ideas, and ways of producing and consuming food, but their voices are often not present during conversations about food system transformation. Nearly 8 in 10 young people have recognized that we need to take urgent action to make our food systems more sustainable, which is why I was so excited to participate with 9 other people in the FutureFoodMakers program to represent young people across Europe and make their views, needs and recommendations known through a manifesto they are calling the Menu for Change. I wanted to take the opportunity to write briefly and reflect about our ideation process.

We had our first meeting on the 4th of October, an inspiring discussion surrounded by young people from diverse backgrounds, yet we were all connected by our similar passions. The next following weeks, we worked with design thinking processes to map out what we recognized as important within our food systems and what needed to change.

We recognized the importance of the following and designed two demands for each:

  • Regenerative Agriculture
  • Food Waste
  • Biodiversity
  • Nutrition
  • Hunger
  • Taxation
  • Labeling
  • Education
  • Economics
  • Accessibility

Splitting up the work between the 10 of us was not overtly difficult, but making sure everything was covered was a bit challenging as despite our diverse backgrounds some areas were still not fully covered. A lot of research went into new topics as we began exploring here, which helped me uncover a new passion for true cost accounting, an evolving method of analysis for assessing the true costs and benefits of different food production systems, which ultimately re-prices the food you buy in store.

Over the next two weeks, we recognized a large amount of overlap, which was inevitable as food systems are synergetic, and elaborate with many portions of the systems interlinking with others. From this, we aimed to be more concise so chose to focus on the following points which were included (although slightly edited) in the manifesto:

  • True Cost Accounting
  • Sustainable and Regenerative Agriculture
  • Unhealthy Food Taxation
  • Food Labeling
  • Food Education in School
  • Food Waste

At this point, circular design principles were identified and we were more clearly able to map out the correlation and connection between our final five points, where our goals were focused in food accessibility, food waste reduction, nutritional wellbeing, and adoption of regenerative practices, with true cost accounting, labeling, education, and policy being the tools needed to accomplish these end goals.

We were finally able to finalize and summarize our points and wrote them into the manifesto as follows:

  • Target 25% of EU agricultural land to be managed under regenerative practices by 2030 and develop a training body to support existing and new farmers in the transition to regenerative farming
  • Define uniform EU nutrition and labeling guidelines that are easy and accessible, meet individuals’ needs and include the environmental impact of food products
  • Develop an inclusion policy that considers the effects of regulations on food costs among vulnerable populations and the provision of vouchers for nutrient-rich foods
  • Develop an EU-wide true cost of food policy that mandates the calculation of the true cost of foods produced by medium-large corporations and multinationals through the implementation of lifecycle analysis and impact assessments
  • Tackle food waste in supermarkets and through the development of the bioeconomy strategy by creating supermarket reduction monitoring plans that feed into the EU-wide food waste monitoring programme, and accelerating the development of substitutes to fossil fuel-based materials that are biobased, recyclable or biodegradable at EU level
  • Include the nutritional, health and environmental implications of food in education curriculums for children, as well as provide support and resources for parents and teachers on healthy and sustainable diets.

With all of these points defined concisely, presented at the EIT Future of Food Conference, and through a trough of media, it is clear that the time for change is now and that these defined guidelines are a clear place to start. I am so excited to see how we can encourage politicians, companies, and youth to start taking action towards our manifesto and encourage you to follow our social @futurefoodmakers on Instagram and TikTok to stay in the loop.

This was originally published on my website.

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